Original Research

Being black in a white skin: Beliefs and stereotypes around albinism at a South African university

Relebohile Phatoli, Nontembeko Bila, Eleanor Ross
African Journal of Disability | Vol 4, No 1 | a106 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ajod.v4i1.106 | © 2015 Relebohile Phatoli, Nontembeko Bila, Eleanor Ross | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 13 December 2013 | Published: 22 May 2015

About the author(s)

Relebohile Phatoli, Department of Social Development, Gauteng Government, South Africa
Nontembeko Bila, Department of Criminology and Social Work, University of Pretoria, South Africa
Eleanor Ross, Centre for Social Development in Africa, University of Johannesburg, South Africa


Background: Partly because of the legacy of apartheid, and despite being a constitutional democracy, South Africa continues to be a deeply divided society, particularly along racial lines. In this context many people with albinism do not fit neatly into black and white categories and are likely to experience social discrimination and marginalisation.

Objectives: The study endeavoured to explore the beliefs and practices regarding albinism within a South African university, and the availability of support services.

Method: The research was located within an interpretive qualitative paradigm and was framed within the theories of stigma, discrimination and ‘othering’. Interviews were conducted with five students with albinism and 10 students without albinism.

Results: Findings confirmed the existence of myths and stereotypes regarding albinism. Students with albinism tended to exclude themselves from the rest of the student community to avoid discrimination and stereotypes around their condition.

Conclusion: People with albinism can teach us about social constructions of race, colour and relations between minority groups and the majority culture. Results have implications for schools, disability units at universities, and albinism societies in terms of opening up channels of communication between people with albinism and the general public and fostering knowledge and awareness thereof.


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Crossref Citations

1. Albinism, spiritual and cultural practices, and implications for health, healthcare, and human rights: a scoping review
Sheryl Reimer-Kirkham, Barbara Astle, Ikponwosa Ero, Kristi Panchuk, Duncan Dixon
Disability & Society  vol: 34  issue: 5  first page: 747  year: 2019  
doi: 10.1080/09687599.2019.1566051